A Better Measure of Success: Value Yourself, Value Your Time

“How did it get so late so soon?” — Dr. Seuss, American children’s author.

A Better Measure of Success: Value Yourself, Value Your Time by Laura StackWhat is your time worth? How much do you personally value it? We all think about these questions at some point. However, you may never have seriously considered their implications…possibly because you don’t really want to know. But to lead effectively, you have no choice but to learn the answers to these questions.

Unlike many things associated with business, you can’t replace or supplement time. You get what you get and not a second more. That being the case, the value of your time ties directly into your sense of self-worth. As psychiatrist and writer M. Scott Peck once put it, “Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.”

Peck was born into a prestigious New York City family, and educated in the best schools, including Friends Seminary and Harvard. He was well aware of what his time was worth. His writings preach the values of community, self-reliance, and a self-disciplined life (although he freely admitted he didn’t always live up to his own standards).

Why You and Your Time Matter

As a leader, you are critically important to your organization; otherwise, you wouldn’t hold down the position you do. Therefore, your time must also matter a great deal. Don’t assume your value is simply equivalent to your salary; your salary is likely to be significantly less that the true value you bring to the organization.

Valuing your time goes beyond the self-evident fact of its scarcity. To do the best job possible, consistently take your time into account, and value it both realistically and highly. Depending on your leadership position, your value to the organization may be hundreds or even thousands of dollars per hour.

Once you’ve pinned down the value of your time, consider these tips as you move forward:

1. Delegate like crazy. Delegation is a basic element of leadership. So delegate your authority and tasks as widely as possible, to capable people who can do those things at a lower cost, more efficiently, or better than you. Retain only the few high-priority, high-value tasks only you can do most profitably. For example, if your personal value is $500 an hour, you’ll waste an enormous amount of money if you do your own photocopying. Let the intern do it for $10-12 an hour. Your superiors expect you to delegate some or most of your duties to your team; it’s your responsibility to match each duty up to the best, most efficient team member for the price, or to outsource if that makes better economic sense.

2. Avoid false economy. If you’ve gone to a convention and picked a hotel a brisk 15-minute walk away because it costs just $75 a night as opposed to the hotel hosting the convention, which charges $125, you’ve misvalued your time. That extra half-hour spent walking back and forth may save your company $50 a day, but it may cost your company $250 if you value your time at $500 per hour, so your company loses $200 per day.

3. Trim away the unprofitable. Both in your personal and work lives, prune away things that cost you money, even if you’re trying to get work done. What’s the point of “working” as you sit on the couch munching chips and watching the ball game? Even if you do it every night, you’ll never get the maximum level of productivity out of it. And you’ll never feel like you get a break, leading to burnout. If you must work at home, you’re better off spending a few hours one night a week focusing tightly on your work, thereby achieving a decent time/value ratio. It boils down to this: if what you’re doing costs more than it’s worth, stop doing it.

4. Politely say no. Don’t try to do everything people ask you to…or try to push on you. When you don’t have the time for something, just say no—unless, of course, that person is your supervisor. Even then, you can negotiate. If you and your team can’t handle another task, have an honest discussion about key priorities. Your leadership may rebalance the load with some other team or finally increase your headcount.

5. Assess the value of your team’s time and make appropriate changes. Have you ever stopped to consider how much it costs someone to commute to work and back? If you’ve got a team member who has a long commute, consider making a deal allowing them to telecommute (if the job is appropriate). Let’s say Sally lives an hour away from work. She spends two hours in the car every day, about 500 hours per year. Then there’s the cost of gasoline. Assuming $15 per day for gas at 2013 prices, she spends about $3,750 annually (we won’t even go into maintenance, oil, insurance, etc). Now suppose Sally makes about $25 an hour. If that’s the basic value of her time, 500 hours of commuting comes to $12,500. So far we’re up to $16,250 (from her perspective) just for gas and time. She can now use those two hours productively, and you can renegotiate her hourly rate to reflect the new reality.

Thinking in Tradeoffs

Valuing your time and your team’s is a matter of always considering the possible tradeoffs of everything you and they can do, from the structure of your work schedule to the best way to save money when traveling. Just keep in mind the fact that value constantly changes. Start thinking about and respecting your time in ways you’ve never done before. Consider all the ways to improve your life and productivity from this single shift in perspective. Raise the value of your time, abandon false economy, and stop trying to do everything on the cheap.

Have you struggled with valuing your time? What kinds of tradeoffs do you recommend?